It is that time of the year when the entire College is in full hustle – submitting assignments, finishing up third components, running away from vicious crows, and a plethora of other conventional ‘Stella Maris’ activities that one can never escape from. However, amongst this bustle, a few enthusiastic, extremely talented and a little dark (sometimes) group of writers, illustrators and photographers found the time to put together Stellaeidoscope’s very first issue for 2018.
In lieu with the Pride month celebrations in June and appeals to strike down the draconian Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, this month’s issue celebrates Pride and the right to love anybody without any inhibitions. From the controversial Green Corridor Project to France’s long awaited win in the FIFA tournament, this issue has it all.
This year, we have introduced News in Bite Size, which simplifies and summarises major events that happened during the month, keeping in mind the majority who do not find the time to read the newspaper for breakfast. We also hope to make the comic strip a regular feature, this year.
That being said, we thank our wonderful team for helping our ideas materialise into tangible work and our faculty advisor Ms. Ishleen for her patience and constant support. To our dear readers, we hope you will stay with us throughout this journey and motivate us to do our best. Happy reading!
Akchayaa (Editor in Chief)
A dreamy person who can be found lurking around in bookstores or any place with animals. When she is not lost between the lines or making terrible jokes, you can find her debating who will end up on the Iron Throne.
Divya Mahesh (Assistant Editor)
She enjoys reading and constantly expresses herself through art and poetry. Home to her is numbers and rock music.
Samyuktha Shiva (Secretary, Shift 1)
An ardent animal person who surprisingly doesn’t shy away from human interaction. Apart from dogs, she loves literature and music.
Nevdetha Swami (Secretary, Shift 2)
A voracious reader, avid writer, K-popper, Potterhead are some keywords that define her. You can usually find her nose buried in a book if she is not belting out Korean music.
– Samyukta Iyer, I B.A. English
The wildfire that is Section 377 has been sweeping across the country, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know the basics of it. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises carnal intercourse that goes against the natural order- including bestiality, sodomy, and oral intercourse. Simply put, it criminalises consensual,unnatural sexual acts of heterosexuals, and more famously protested is that it holds against law any such act between two people of the same gender, i.e., the LGBTQIA+ community, targeting gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people most viciously. Now the fairness of this law must be called into question; two consenting adults of the same gender who may engage in sex with each other will be punished with up to ten years of imprisonment, but a rapist is punished with only seven years in prison. Can you imagine the kind of message this law sends out to people?
Fun fact: Section 377 was written into the Indian law by the British Raj in 1861. However, the British had the good sense to make homosexuality legal in 1967 in England and Wales, while we, well, we held on to it.
The history of Section 377 is vast and controversial. In brief, it was introduced in 1860, and in 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down this law, but it was re-criminalised in 2013 by the Supreme Court. On 27 April 2016, five eminent personalities- Navtej Singh Johar, Sunil Mehra, Ritu Dalmia, Aman Nath, and Ayesha Kapur- from the LGBT community filed a fresh writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The petition was placed before Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice A.K. Bhushan on 29 June 2016 where an order was passed to post the matter before the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra for appropriate orders. The case then went into cold storage. On 8 January2018, the matter was listed to be heard by the CJI’s bench, which passed an order stating that the case will be heard by the Constitutional Bench, where it would be heard afresh. The verdict is likely to come before October 2nd, before the tenure of the CJI ends.
To the more conservative Indians who worry about creation and reproduction, per-haps we must remind you that we are 1.4 billion people in India itself. Population is never going to be a problem for us. In fact, what we need is people who can adopt the thousands of orphans and abandoned babies who will never have good homes. Do you know who’s more likely to adopt them? Gay people.
Prudish as Indian people are, we must wake up and acknowledge that sexual orientation is not a mental illness and must be respected as part of a person’s identity. It is about having a choice, and revoking Section 377 would be a violation of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution- the right to privacy has been upheld as a fundamental right since 24 August 2017 under Article 21, Part III of the Constitution. By criminalising sexual orientation, we are essentially discriminating in the worst way against the LGBTQIA+ community and stripping them of the dignity and privacy they deserve as human beings. It’s time we confront our prejudices and act against it.
– Revathy, II B.A English Literature
– R.Swetha, II B.A English Literature
1. 1 July 2018 marked one year of GST in India. The Goods and Services Tax was initially defamed for its indiscriminate tax rates on essential goods but on the first anniversary of GST, the government has decided to cut down tax rate on 88 items including sanitary napkins, footwear etc.
2. India and Israel signed a pact that allows co-operation in 7 key fields of space, technology, agriculture, water conservation etc. The heads of the state signed an agreement on ‘strategic partnership in water and agriculture’. The pact also decided that the ISRO and the Israel Space Agency will work together for the development and control of small satellites benefiting both the nations.
3. The G20 Nations met in Germany for their 12th annual meeting on July 7 and 8 2018. The agenda of this year’s meeting was based on strengthening multilateral co-operation among G20 Nations. Seven forums under G20 conducted all nation meetings to discuss developmental strategies in the field of agriculture, digital development, terrorism, market regulation etc.
4 .The Pride month came out with a positive decision for those demanding decriminalization of consensual sex. The Supreme Court reviewed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality. On hearing a plea submitted by IIT students, a bench under justice Deepak Misra gave a verdict on the chances of liberalising the legal provision stating its contradictions with the fundamental rights of its citizens. The bench reserved its verdict on reconsidering the constitutional validity of the law. The LGBTQ community in India welcomed the decision as this might help legalise their rights.
5. 15 July 2018, witnessed the final match of the FIFA football world cup between Croatia and France. France emerged as the title winner beating Croatia 4 for 2. This world cup tournament was famous for the fall of teams with huge fan bases like Brazil, Argentina and Spain who were knocked out even before the final rounds. The Croatian team was applauded for their struggle and hard work to reach the finals.
6. Heavy rains lashed in several parts of the country with the onset of monsoon. Kerala and Karnataka experienced heavy rains and flooding. Delhi NCR and Mumbai were nearly submerged in the downpour.
– Zenia Zuraiq, II B.Sc. Physics
Image source: Huffington Post
On 12 July 2018, athlete Hima Das made history by becoming India’s first ever track and field gold medallist at the IAAF World Championships, when she aced the women’s 400 m event at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Tampere, Finland.
The daughter of a farmer from Assam, Hima quickly became a social media darling. Days after the victory, Google recorded a spike in searches for Hima’s name, as expected.What was not expected (and deeply troubling) was how the number one prompted search keyword was (and remains to be) ‘Hima Das caste’. However hard we try, it seems that we simply cannot outrun our made-up hierarchies.This incident is indicative of so much that is wrong with desi identity today – how we constantly put up and re-establish barriers between ourselves.
Our society majorly functions on the ‘tribes’ and factions you define yourselves by. These can be your race, your religion, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, etc. These are personal milestones and markers of identity. There is a keen and urgent spirit of activists and change makers who are trying to regain some momentum for those factions and sections of the society which were previously shunned. But even as pride uplifts one group, we must always be wary of the other effects it has. Today, ‘pride’ is not just a feeling. It is a tool – carefully packaged and strategically deployed. You don’t have to look very far to see it in action. This ‘pride’ is complemented by complete ‘otherisation’ of anyone who isn’t in your tribe.
‘Pride’ today is being fed to you in many different, bite sized chunks like ‘patriotism’, ‘nationalism’, and so many more. “Why are you afraid of showing off who you are?”, they say. The arguments just seem so sound and logical that you cannot help but follow. A perfect paper trail, leading to more and more arbitrary divisions between you and your fellow humans. The ‘otherisation’ is exponential. Your tribe, your faction becomes who you are – and anyone outside it is seen as a threat, no matter what their intentions.
The end goal is simple – complete disillusionment between tribes. You and your very soul tied to this sort of misplaced identity. This attitude of ‘my tribe is better than yours’. We justify this state by calling it ‘pride’. The stakes become too personal. Your sense of belonging becomes directly tied to this ‘pride’. This sort of political hijacking of identity is exactly the fall that pride comes before. At a juncture like this, it’s worth taking a step back for self-examination. Is pride in your identity worth having at the expense of other people’s? Does your sense of belonging come from the invalidation of other people’s rights? Is it not possible for me to be proud of who I am without invalidating someone else?
It’s very easy to justify the loud, inflammatory rhetoric around us as simply ‘taking pride’ in one’s identity. But it’s worth remembering that an identity which serves no purpose other than isolating you from those around isn’t one worth having. That is why the question of Hima Das’ caste even being relevant is infuriating. In an age where we are trying to get rid of barriers between people, re-establishing old, troublesome ones isn’t a great sign. There is nothing wrong in being proud of who you are. In fact, that is something we must all strive for. We just have to be careful not to invalidate other people or their struggles along the way.
At the end of the day, pride must unite more than it divides.
– Nevedetha Swaminathan, III B.Com (A&F)
Image source : Stella Maris College Website
The new Students’ Union consists of a team of exuberant individuals who perfectly represent the vibrant community of Stella Maris. And, the unveiling of their logo was the icing on the cake.The logo was unveiled to the students and staff of Stella Maris College on 3 July 2018 at the OAT. Students were requested to come dressed in shades of yellow, red, or orange to cheer on the Union’s new logo.
The event began with a prayer song to invoke the blessings of the Almighty. This was followed by a welcome address from Swathi, Cultural Secretary Shift 1.
Then came the most awaited moment; the unveiling of the logo. The Principal, Dr. Sr. Rosy Joseph, was called upon to do the honours.
True to the spirit of the Union, the logo was a woman’s hand in a snapping motion with a flame emitting from her index finger. Under the logo were the words IGNITE, Discover the fire within. The members of the Union explained the logo. It was accompanied by a video depicting the accomplishments of women all around the world, many of them being our very own Stella Marians. The Union also announced a new and an exciting Youth Skills Programme, which includes workshops that will be organised by various clubs and other student training sessions.
Dr. Sr. Rosy Joseph also addressed the gathering and highly commended the Union on their logo and requested all students to support the Union’s endeavours. This was followed by the Investiture Ceremony of the Union members and executive representatives.The ceremony then ended with vote of thanks delivered by Rita, General Secretary, followed by the College Song.
– R Bharati, I B.Sc Psychology
Image source: keepcalmandwander.com
While striving towards advancement in many fields, India still lags abysmally when it comes to LGBT rights. Many members of the LGBT community choose to stay closeted for they fear honour killings, lynching, and ostracization. There exists very little legal reform, same-sex sexual intercourse is criminalized under the controversial Section 377, and there exists noprotection for LGBT individuals. Despite the hostile environment, there is a sliver of hope; tolerance and acceptance of LGBT individuals has grown rapidly, and many organisations work tirelessly toward abolishing the draconian laws that stand in the way of love.
In what can be described as a poetic end to Pride month, India stands on the brink of the greatest breakthrough for gay rights as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether homosexuality is illegal. In the wake of this milestone, I interviewed a few LGBT individuals on what life as a member of the LGBT community is. Names have been changed to protect anonymity.
1) G, a gay man
Q: When did you first come to terms with your homosexuality?
A: As cliché as it sounds, I always knew I was ‘different’, and that’s how I realized I didn’t fit into heteronormative code. Middle school was torturous for me- all my friends would speak about how they had crushes on girls, and I just could never relate to them. It took me a lot of time to accept that I was gay.Until last year, I would just tell myself that I didn’t find any girl attractive.
Q: Have you come out to anybody? If not, why?
A: Not really- I have told a few friends, but that’s it. I’m lucky the few people I’ve told are supportive. A lot of the guys I talk to crack gay jokes and are legitimately afraid of gay men, and it takes all my strength to tell them that I wouldn’t find them attractive even if I were a girl. I haven’t come out publicly because of two things: the discrimination, and the stigma. Even now, I’m worried about going to college, because it’ll be a completely new environment and it’s too stressful to figure out who’s an ally and who isn’t.
Q: What according to you is the toughest part of being gay in Chennai?
A: Honestly, not knowing that there was a gay community in Chennai. Oddly enough, I understand why it ‘doesn’t exist’- I avoid discussing my orientation to save myself the judgmental stares and the homophobic comments. I still haven’t met many gay men here, and I think that speaks a lot about how tough it is to be openly queer here. Nobody wants to speak about it for they fear being harassed, blackmailed, or worse.
Q: How can allies help the gay community? What measure do you feel is the need of the hour?
A: By speaking up. This may seem like the smallest thing, but itdefinitely helps. Shutting up about the LGBT community when you’re near your conservative relatives and being an ally in front of your young cousins does us no good. The key to acceptance is normalization- we’re humans, just like you. We love, just like you. It’s just that who we’re attracted to is different from what you’re used to. It isn’t a bad or a good thing, it’s just an Is. As allies, it would mean a lot to us if you could help show the world that we’re just like anybody else.
2) B, an openly bisexual girl
Q: What is one misconception you’d like to clear up about bisexual people?
A: That it’s just a phase, and that we’re ‘confused’. It gets annoying and repetitive after a point,people often forget that we’re also part of the LGBT community.
Q: Tell us your coming out story.
A: I came out to my parents first- initially, my mother didn’t accept it, and my father tried his hardest to. The funny thing is, both were accepting of it because they thought I’d just date girls and then eventually get married to a man. It took a lot of arguing to show them that I wouldn’t choose who to marry based on their gender but on whether I loved them or not. I don’t think my parents have fully accepted it yet, but I’m very lucky they try. Just the other day, my mother and I were out shopping, and she pointed to this cute girl and said, “She looks very nice, you should talk to her.” It was very awkward, but sweet!
Q: How can allies help the LGBT community?
A: I feel the simplest way to show you support the LGBT community is by giving monetary support to organisations that work towards their upliftment. It’s a great way for allies who are afraid to use their voice to help. Whether you donate ten rupees or a thousand, you’d have put solid, tangible efforts to support LGBT rights. Find an organisation that you trust, andthen donate.
3) A, a genderfluid person
Q: What do you identify as?
A: I identify as female. It’s very hard to be genderfluid in India. I’ve been harassed for wearing skirts in public and I’ve been bullied since middle school for my feminine ways. But, my family and friends love and accept me, so I’m grateful.
Q: What misconception about trans people would you like to clear?
A: There’s this raging notion that all trans people are perverts, this hurts and saddens me a lot. Imagine living all your life thinking you were born in the wrong body, and when you finally get the courage to be yourself, you get labelled a deviant for it. We mean no harm- we’re just trying to live our happiest life and to be ourselves.
Q: What is the hardest part about being genderfluid in India?
A: We’re denied legal rights and protection, so I’m not sure how much tougher it can get. But, I’d like to answer this question differently- it is hard, yes, but I have met some of the best people ever. The kindest allies, the most passionate activists- one of the best parts about being genderfluid is that you never have to doubt the strength of your friendship with others from the community. There is an unspoken bond created simply by way of the common hardships you go through. I’m lucky and proud to have some of the best friends and allies ever.
The Department of English conducted an intra-departmental TTT (Terribly Tiny Tales) competition on 23 July 2018. ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Harmony’ were the prompts. The three winning entries are:
1. Hibakujumoku *
It was her third born
First with the will to live.
II M.A English
2. Sunshine. I thought you were made of it. But it was merely a deceptive cloak that coloured your darkness with light.
– Susanna Marian Correya
III B.A English
3. “Be good.”
“Why aren’t you the best?”
When the world spun to an offbeat tune, only the mirror would let her dance in perfect harmony.
– Mercy Teres Johny
I M.A English
*Japanese term for a tree that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Everything you need to know about the Salem-Chennai Green Corridor Project.
-Dhipthi Dona J, III B.A. English
Art by Dhipthi Dona J, III B.A. English
The central government funded Chennai-Salem green corridor project is an eight-lane expressway of 277.3 km that cuts through the five districts of Salem, Dharmapuri, Krisahnagiri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram. The 10,000 crore project is to reduce 57 km travel distance between Salem and Chennai. The expressway aims to increase the efficiency of freight movement between the cities.
Though the Chief Minister of the state and the officials claim that 90% of the farmers are willing to co-operate while the rest are only protesting for a higher compensation, the instances of farmers jumping into wells and their families falling at the feet of officials, pleading with them to not survey their farm, suggests otherwise. The opposition parties along with multiple farmer associations like the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, All India Kisan Sabha, All India Kisan Mahasabha and All India Krishak Khet Majdoor Sangathan, have held protests in various parts of the state ever since the announcement of the project. They bring to light the concern over the legitimacy of the hefty compensation by citing the example of a large number of farmers who still haven’t received the compensation promised to them by the then government for the land they parted with (over a decade ago) for the Salem-Ulundurpettai national highways.
While the project is spurring controversy all across the state, its feasibility report is intriguing for all the wrong reasons. Amidst the shabby copy-paste work, the name of a Chinese city (Xi’an) hasn’t been removed from the document. The report repeats the same set of information in four chapters, (which runs for seven to eight pages each) occasionally seasoning it with general information about the state and the five districts from Wikipedia. Interestingly, the report also talks about gender equality and empowerment not being serious with regard to urban transport; clearly oblivious to the number of harassment cases reported on an everyday basis. The report makes random assertions that are highly subjective and vague, for example: “Many people were very positive about the project and during the discussions, many benefits were identified.” In no place does the report mention who the ‘many people’ are or what the ‘many benefits’ are.
Several journalists have also spotted factual errors in the Minutes of the 189th Meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee for Projects related to National Highways. The report mentions that in the 277.3 km of the expressway that cuts across 16 forest villages and seven reserve forests, (roughly 100 hectares of forest land) only 6,400 trees are to be cut. Considering the estimated felling of 17,000 trees for a redevelopment project of a central government accommodation in south Delhi (an urban residential space) it is clear that the approximate 6,400 is a gross understatement.
The acquisition of land for the expressway also puts at stake the land allocated to the scheduled caste and tribe communities. The procedure followed by our democratic government in matters of land acquisition is intriguing; for the inspection and surveying of the farmland and farms precedes the committee meetings organised to evaluate the opinions of the owners of the land. Such ‘development’ measures taken up by the government keeps raising the question of ‘how important a citizen’s opinion, wants and needs are to the governing body’, time and again.